text by Junnosuke Amai
photo edit by Ryoko Kuwahara
photo by Masakazu Yoshiba


–I went to your show the other night. I thought your piano was especially amazing. You’re done with the show now. How do you feel?

“I feel good. I was a little bit nervous because I’d never played piano at my headline show before. But I think it went really well including the venue and the lighting. Sometimes I feel very exposed because it’s so minimal but everyone was attentive and listening to my music. I think it was a wonderful show. ”

-For the lighting, I heard you had some instructions like what colors to use for each song.

“Very simply, when I write a song, there’s aways color in mind. Also, in my lyrics, I have a lot of colors and visual references. So color is obvious to me.”

–I see. Now we want to know little bit about your background as for some Japanese fans this would be the first opportunity to get to know you. Was piano the first instrument you used to start making music?

“Yeah. Piano was my first instrument. My father bought a piano from some old neighbors who moving out. I was like three or four years old. So I used to annoy everybody in the house by the piano very early in the morning cause I was a young child.”

–So did you start singing at the same time you started making music?

“I’m not sure. I can’t really remember because I was always singing. But I used to sing in primary school choir. So I’ve been always singing. But when I was a teenager, I was kinda focusing more on production. It wasn’t my intention to be out there of the world like a vocalist or a singer. I kinda wanted to be like a faceless producer. ”

–So you were in a choir. Which means you were enjoying singing right?

“Oh yeah. I was always enjoying singing. It was very like catharsis. Very spiritual things to do to me.”

–Back in 2010, when I listened to your music, I thought it was more production focused. How did you end up using both your vocal and production elements?

“Probably working with the other people. So when I started working with SBTRKT in 2009 and 2010, we would produce music together and then arrange. And I ended up singing on top of it. Since then, I started using more and more vocals for my music and concentrating a little bit more on songs. So it was kinda like a natural progression to me becoming more comfortable with my voice. I wasn’t confident with my voice before like my vocal technique, and it takes time for me to feel comfortable with my voice. On my debut record, I’m not using as many effects as I was using before, and a lot in front in the mix and direct. So yeah. I’ve been more comfortable with my voice and hearing it.”

–Speaking with being comfortable with your own voice, were there any aspects that you didn’t feel comfortable or feel awkward?

“I always felt the imperfection when I listened to my voice. But now I kind of embrace it. I used to ignore it because I didn’t want to admit it so I didn’t work on my voice. But now I feel more comfortable because I’m more comfortable with the imperfection. I can actually feel I can work on it. Now I warm up my voice or do things I didn’t do as much before. To live life, you can’t afraid of death. You can be true to yourself go farther by admitting and embrace your imperfection.”

–How do you feel when you listen back to the EP you released three years ago?

“I don’t really listen to it that often but when I do I enjoy listening to it. It’s nice sometimes to see where I have been and how I moved on with production styles from then. It’s nice to compare and appreciate where you were. It could made me feel “Oh I really like it. Maybe I should do more of that because it sounds good” but that’s not the best thing to do. Sometimes you just have to be comfortable with moving on. But I’m happy with the EP.”

–So you just mentioned that a record is like a documentation of time and place. For the new album, what kind of time and place is documented?

“Hmmm. You’re always in a new territory. Anytime. All times. So it was kind of the documentation of growing pains. And also I was thinking about just lot of different kind of concepts like responsibility to myself and to others, empathy, and talking about sort of caring. I guess at the time I was kinda going through a lot of things like new phases of life. In terms of me experiencing, like, my mum was quite ill. She had cancer. It was terminal cancer so I had to compute everything for the first time in my life. So it’s the documentation of force and feelings. A lot of them come through not only lyrics but instrumentation, harmonies, and production. Just in terms of the mood of the album. And also me analyzing myself. So it’s very personal analysis of me emotionally. It’s not like a political album or something like that.”

–Hearing that story, the process must have been very painful and tough?

“Yeah, it was definitely tough time. Just like another stage. It feels like another level of life.”

–Your first EP had a lot of production and then “Dual” maybe had little more vocals. I think this album is a very good balance or nice blend of vocals and production. But what did you actually express or convey through this album?

“I wanted to express chaotic side of myself. The first couple of tracks on the album are quite like maximalist. So like a lot of things going on. There are a lot of peaks and downs in the album. I also wanted to get across kind of my energy. Like in the production sense. It’s difficult for me to do sometimes. It’s not too controlled. Yeah, I wanted to get across some interesting production ideas me kind of experimenting more of recording live instruments, and trying to make something fresh to me. And also, sometimes it’s me and piano, which is very much kind of simple affair. But it’s interesting I can be more powerful with it. So yeah, I wanted to experiment some new. I was listening to a lot of West African music, especially Oumou Sangare whose style had big impact on me just in terms of rhythms. She has a album called “Worotan”. So the album is a bit like a jumble like my mind (laughs).”

–There’s a track called “Kora Sings”. Is Kora an instrument?

“Yes. It’s like a West African guitar. That’s definitely I wanted to do from listening to her album.”

–“Timmy’s Prayer” features Kanye. And you’ve worked with him before as well. I think he is a man with many aspects. What is one thing that you see in him as a producer or an artist?

“I don’t know. I was always growing up listening to his music. I’ve always been a big Kanye fan. “The College Dropout” is one of the albums I’ve listened to the most when I was a teenager. What I enjoy about him is a producer is that he’s an artist. He never stays in the same place. He completely keeps evolving into like an other creature through music. He is a very interesting character. He also follows his feelings all the time. Without a reason I was up for the work because I was a big fan. Musically, he’s just open and probably goes down to so many directions in terms of his references or his arrangements. Like he uses completely different sample in the middle of a song. He does things I wouldn’t do. Yeah, it was really cool. As for “Timmy’s Prayer”, I made the beat when I went to his house. ”

–Looking at the nominees for this year’s music awards, such as people like Drake and Beyonce, it seems a lot of main stream artists are into R&B and hip hop. Do you feel like there’s the movement happening in music industry now? Well, you’re pretty much in the middle of the scene right now.

“I’m not aware of what’s going on in the music industry. So I don’t know what to say. But R&B has been one of the main genre since the 50’s or 60’s. And sometimes some big artists come out of the genre. I don’t really care about genres of music so I’m not sure what’s popular or not. But I think a lot of musicians or popular artists are being really brave and doing big things with their music. Especially these days, more and more listeners are being open because of the internet and now they accept a lot of more different types of music. People are more open minded so artists can be more experimental and it’s easier to try what they want to do. Yeah, I think it’s a good thing. Musicians used to be conscious about formats like you have to make music that sounds good on radio or things like that. But as the internist is an open source, artists can release whatever they want to release. In a way, we could say the internet made music disposable. But format wise, I think musicians are much more free now. But maybe they were even more free in the 70’s such as psychedelic music artist (laughs).”

–Thank you!

“Thank you. ”

1 2 3 4 5



Load more